Electrical Engineers

This article acts as an extensive career guide that elaborates on the career path of electrical engineers, the job outlook, salaries, qualifications required and much more.

Updated by Rakshitha.N on 29th September 2020

What do they do: Electrical engineers are professionals who study electromagnetism, electronics and concepts about electricity to combine the theories to create new technology used in communication systems, engineering services, manufacturing, telecommunications, electrical equipment.

Working environment: Electrical engineers perform tasks indoors in office settings to design and develop for electrical systems and devices. They work in noisy and stressful environments where there is no place for errors. Also can work outdoors when required for project works for the implementation of electrical components in a project. 

How to become: To become an electrical engineer, you’re required to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or any other related major. Also gaining hands-on experience is valuable to get employment. Prospective students can obtain a professional engineering license to work at government organizations or for the public. 

Salary offered: The average salary offered to electrical engineers in 2020 is about $145,533 and can typically range between $131,418 and $156,701 annually.

Career outlook: The employment opportunities are increasing and the job growth of electrical engineers are about 2 percent during the period of 2018 to 2028 which is faster than the average growth of all occupations. However, there might be a decline or slow growth rate of this profession in many industries. 

Similar careers: Meeting educational requirements to become an electrical engineer will also provide other opportunities to choose other career options based on your interest, duties, skills.

Top Electrical Engineering Jobs

Principal Electrical Engineer

A principal engineer in the engineering profession is one who guides and supervises multiple teams working on projects and developing the products. The average salary offered for this position is about $124,000 and also requires several years of experience in the fieldwork.

Electrical Distribution Designer

An electrical distribution designer works on the design and development of the electric systems. Also, they design the layout of residential and commercial electric systems. This position requires candidates with good experience and knowledge on CAD software. The salary obtained for this profile is $88,450.

Electrical Project Engineer

The electrical project manager works on projects with teams, oversees, directs, monitors plans and develops the manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications with suitable calculations. The average salary offered for this position is $79,888. 

What do Electrical Engineers Do?

The roles and responsibilities performed by electrical engineers on the existing systems to bring out innovative concepts are,

  • Conducting research programs on the electrical systems, products, components, and applications

  • Designing and development of electrical system with application of knowledge on electricity and materials

  • Analyzing the customer requirements to design the system

  • Designing testing methods and procedures to ensure the capabilities of the system developed.

  • Perform detailed designing with distinct specifications and calculation. 

  • Monitor the construction, manufacturing and installation of the developed systems or components. 

  • Implementing the electrical systems in other industries such as manufacturing and engineering services

  • Design the system to meet the standards and assure the quality. 

  • Produce the finished components and test them using standardized methods

  • Record the information collected based on test, trends, and feedback to improve further.

  • Overseeing the company standards by meeting the federal and state regulations

  • Document the product database by entering the information into computer systems.

Electrical engineers play diverse roles and these duties can change based on the type of work, location, organization and designation. Also their roles vary based on industries such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing however the core tasks remain the same. 

Working Conditions of Electrical Engineers

Taking the overall number of electrical engineers employed, there are about 191,900 employees currently working in the electrical industry. The working environment for an electrical engineer usually are as follows,

  • Work indoors and in an office setting, but can work outdoors while working any project.

  • Work in teams and as individuals. Also collaborate with other departments such as manufacturing, engineering, IT departments. 

  • Interact with people, coworkers, clients at a medium level.

  • Work to achieve accuracy and qualify is in turn responsible to maintain safety. 

  • With a competitive atmosphere around, they work hard to meet the deadlines.

  • The work schedule is fixed to 40 hours a week however it can extend based on the project being handled. 

With the total electrical engineers being employed, here is the percentage of the number employed in different industries. 

  • Engineering services: 19%

  • Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution: 9%

  • Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: 7%

  • Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences:6%

  • Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: 5%

How to Become an Electrical Engineer?

To become an electrical engineer, there are clear cut steps and a number of criteria you must follow. The minimum requirements you must attain is a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or other major accredited by ABET, a subgroup of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers- IEEE. After earning the prerequisites, you could choose to pursue a master's degree to advance your career by gaining deep knowledge of specializations. 

Once completing the education requirements, you could choose to earn a Professional Engineer license, which allows you to work in diverse public and private sectors. The time taken to become an electrical engineer is about 4-5 years of education and 4 years to gain experience and earn a license. On the whole, it takes approximately 8 years but can vary depending on factors such as degree level, experience, and others. 

Educational requirements for Electrical Engineers

The education path to becoming an electrical engineer starts while you're still in high school. You start building interest in studying electricity and electrical engineering. Gaining strong basics in courses like physics, math, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus helps in becoming technically sound. 

Earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from a program accredited by Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology takes about 4 years while you gain 120 credits to complete the coursework such as Probability theory, Statistics, Electromagnetic fields, Microprocessor systems in addition to general courses like English, biology, math, history and other. Also, you are provided detailed knowledge on CAD software to design the electrical systems and components.

From the employer's perspective, they prefer candidates with a master's degree and hence according to this, you could choose to pursue the graduate degree which enhances your researching skills, deep knowledge on concepts and includes thesis writing. The coursework includes electronic circuits, communications, embedded systems, systems engineering and digital signal processing. Aspiring students can choose a college that offers a combined graduate and undergraduate program with a completion period of 5 years. 

Licenses and Certifications for Electrical Engineers

After completing the electrical engineering education requirements, the next step can be getting into an entry-level job that doesn't require a license or preparing for licensure. 

After earning the bachelor’s degree from an accredited program gives you the eligibility to gain a Professional Engineer license through the National Society of Professional Engineers- NSPE. gaining this license not only helps in getting higher positions but also a greater deal of responsibility. The steps you should follow to gain this license is, 

  • Complete a 4 years undergraduate program from an accredited engineering program. 

  • Clear the Fundamentals of Engineering exam

  • Gain at least 4 years of experience in fieldwork

  • Clear the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam.

Completing these 4 steps you are awarded the Professional Engineer license through NSPE. Initially, after passing the FE exam, you are referred as Engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs) where you gain 4 or more years of experience under the supervision of professionals through internships, in-class training, on-the-job training and other practicums. After clearing the second exam, you are licensed. 

Before you start preparing for licensure, you must understand the state requirements as they vary from one to another. 

Stand Out Skills for Electrical Engineers

To excel as an electrical engineer, you must possess a set of hard and soft skills, here are some important skills listed for you,

Problem-solving skills: Electrical engineers must have the good technical knowledge to analyze the problem and find an effective solution to improvise the design or product. By applying the basics of coursework, they solve the problems.

Creativity: Electrical engineers have the ability to innovate new ideas with their technical knowledge and creative skills. They analyze the problems in various methods and find a unique solution.

Leadership skills: Leadership skills are important personal skills that grow with time and experience. You must be willing to take responsibility and initiate situations where you can take charge of the programs and guide the teammates to complete the work on time.

Organized: Being organized as an electrical engineer is beneficial as they can organize and plan on the tasks to be completed, estimate the budget, allocate resources to the project, and also tasks to be completed by the teammates. Managing the project at regular intervals with inspecting the progress helps become successful soon.

Communication skills: electrical engineers must communicate well to convey their ideas to their teammates and be good at documenting and reporting regularly to present information as a record. 

Top University Programs for Electrical Engineers

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Stanford University.

  • University of California-Berkeley.

  • California Institute of Technology.

  • University of Illinois-Urbana

  • Georgia Institute of Technology.

  • University of Michigan--Ann Arbor.

Electrical Engineers Salary

The average yearly salary offered to Electrical Engineers in 2020 is determined to be about $145,270 and can range anywhere between $131,180 and $156,418. The salary offered can vary based on your education, experience, skill sets, certification, and various other factors. The wages can be classified based on the amount offered for employees at various level,

  • 10th percentile: $118,351

  • 25th percentile: $131,180

  • 50th percentile (median): $145,270

  • 75th percentile: $156,418

  • 90th percentile: $166,567

The top industries with which recruit electrical engineers and the median wage paid by them are listed below,

  • Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $113,050

  • Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: $104,170

  • Navigational,measuring,electromedical and control instruments manufacturing: $103,400

  • Electric power generation, transmission and distribution: $99,610

  • Engineering services: $96,540

The average salary you will be paid by the amount of experience gained is detailed as follows,

  • Entry-level: $84,000

  • Early Career: $98,000

  • Mid Career: $118,351

  • Experienced: $145,270

  • Late career: $156,418

Job Growth of Electrical Engineers

The job growth of electrical engineering careers as estimated by the Bureau of Labor statistics is about a 2 percent increase during the period of 2018 to 2028. This growth trend is slower or declining when compared with the average growth for all occupations. This is due to the decline in most industries including manufacturing industries and in telecommunications. Also, it is estimated that electrical engineering jobs will rapidly increase in industries such as professional, scientific, and technical services firms, projects involving electronic devices and systems. 

The employment opportunities for industrial engineers in 2018 were 330,300 and the projected employment by the end of 2028 is 338,300 which means that there will be 8,000 more additional jobs created in the 10 years. 

Also the industry is modernizing and the advent of modern technologies will create more demand for electrical engineers and electricians in research and development, engineering expertise or designing departments. As the use of solar panels, electric vehicles, semiconductors, advanced communications technologies, and automation of production processes increases, the scope of electrical engineers will reach its peak. The electricity and eclectic energy will replace depleting fuel and fossils. Knowing these facts, choosing this career path is worthwhile and rewarding. 

Related Careers for Electrical Engineers

Radio Frequency engineer

The radiofrequency engineer works on designing the wireless networks and electronic devices that communicate through the radio waves. This involves the application of transmission lines, waveguides, antenna, and principles of the electromagnetic field. He mainly works on communication through electronic devices and technologies and the average salary earned by the radio frequency engineer is $82,435 per year. 

Electronic communication engineer

The electronic communication engineer utilizes the principle of both science and math to solve the practical problems in the communication field. They are engaged in designing, researching, developing, retesting the devices to include modification in the communication system. The products created by them can be used for mass communication and the average earnings of the electronic communication engineer nearly range between $48,000 to $86,000 per annum.

Transmission line engineer

The transmission line engineers analyze the electrical systems and the transmission lines such as cables used for distributing power and telecommunication. They detect the problems in the transmission medium and review the potential modifications. You are required to earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering to land on this job. The median salary offered to this role is about $71,000 per year.

Control engineer

A control engineer controls the regulation of the electrical systems with the use of suitable circuits, microcontrollers, a digital signal processor. This allows the machine to work in safety conditions in the desired behavior. The discipline of control is combined with electrical engineering and taught in many institutions. The salary of a control engineer ranges from $58,000 to $100,000 annually.

Computer Network Architect

A Computer Network Architect is a person who designs and builds the data communication networks to send and receive data through the Local area network, wide area networks, and intranet. The role also includes building network security, network hardware ad support. The average salary offered for this job is about $137,000 per year.